August 4, 2023
Source: Lex 18 News (Lexington, Kentucky)
Kate Boudreaux has loved everything about the University of Kentucky (UK) since she was a little girl. She dreamed of attending this university, just like her sisters did. But she lacked a viable path to campus because she was born with Downs Syndrome.
“It’s everything to her, and to us because she followed an inclusive program all the way through her entire life,” said Kate’s mother, Karen.
Kate is 22-years-old now, and mom says she has always been a very social person. Currently, she’s involved with an academic program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and teaches dance to kids. Now, thanks to a certification from the United State Department of Education, she will have the chance to live out her dream as a student at UK.
“This is a fully inclusive college experience,” said Johnny Collett.
Collett, who serves as Deputy Director of UK’s Human Development Institute, was also the Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of Education under former President Donald Trump.
“What this is not, is the program that sits over there somewhere, in that building on campus that nobody knows about,” he said of the program set to launch this fall.
UK can do this now because the U.S. Department of Education approved its application following a fairly rigorous process. It is now home to one of America’s 131 Comprehensive Transition and Post-Secondary education programs. The CTP distinction is significant.
“The university or college can offer financial aid to these students,” Collett said, before noting that they’d have to qualify just like any other student’s family. And they can do it with federal or state assistance.
The program, which Collett believes will launch with five students this fall, is mostly certificate rather than diploma-based, though college credit is available to this group of students.
“That meaningful credential that will result at the end of this will be meaningful to them and, we think, meaningful to potential employers,” Collett said.
Students of this program will be in classrooms with everyone else, and as Collett said, the same courses will be available to everyone. A program coordinator will oversee the students’ progress while addressing any issues they may have along the way.
For Kate’s father, this is truly a blessing given he’s seen his daughter exceed all reasonable expectations given her disability.
“Our goal was to make sure she maximized and met those capabilities,” Kerry Boudreaux said, near the library where his daughter may one-day study for exams.
Kate still needs to go through the admissions process and Karen assured us they would begin that process very shortly. Just as the program will be fully inclusive, there will be standards for admission, with certain concessions based on the obvious challenges the prospective students have faced.
“They may have a disability, or a learning delay, but they can still learn,” Mr. Boudreaux said adamantly.
Thanks to this program, Kate will have a chance to learn on this campus.
“To have the flagship university in the state of Kentucky finally bring this program to fruition is amazing,” Kerry Boudreaux said.
And CTP isn’t just about academics. Students will have the same opportunities when it comes to all areas of campus life.
“She talks about being in a sorority. I’m not sure what else, but she’s looking forward to all of those things,” Karen Boudreaux said.
Mr. Collett said the national CTP status allows the university to fill an obvious hole while addressing a problem that’s as old as the university itself.
“Only seven percent of students with intellectual disabilities are enrolled in a college or university in the year after they exit a Kentucky high school. So this gives us a chance to give this group of students more opportunities,” Collett explained.
“We know that the return on investment is significant too. Students who participate in these programs are more likely to become employed, and more likely work more hours to earn more per hour. And they have more options when it comes to types of employment,” Collett continued.
What they have now is a viable path to the college experience that has been so elusive to them. It’s something mom has worked towards on this campus since Kate was a small child.
“We’ve been on the advisory committee for years trying to get this worked out, and because of the patience and the modifications made along the way, now we have the backing of the U.S. Department of Education and it’s just a phenomenal program,” Mrs. Boudreaux said.
[Note: The online story includes a captioned video (3 minutes, 8 seconds)]